Category Archives: Cruise Planner

It’s a ROYAL Place….London

I have been waiting for the arrival of the Royal Baby before doing a blog about London which is truly one of my favorite places to visit on
Earth.  So, in honor of the arrival of Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge, this blogs for all the London Lovers out there.

As I mentioned London is truly one of my favorite cities to visit.  The city is full of history, energy and welcoming people.  I have yet to run
across a Londoner that wasn’t willing to chat with an out-of-towner such as myself.  Always helpful to give advise about things to see or
places to eat.

The thing about London is, you could spend 7 full days in this city and sightsee from 8am till 8pm and still not see everything in the matter of
7 days.  If your time is limited on your visit to London then you do need to sit down and figure out in advance all the great things you want to
see and do during your short visit.

First of all let’s talk about transportation and getting around the city.  There is no better transportation system to be found like the TUBE or
“Underground” in London.  It’s the easiest system to use that you will find anywhere.  If you’re a tourist there for a few days, just buy the pass
that offers the most flexibility and you don’t have to worry about the times of the day that you need to jump on a train and head somewhere.
There are cheaper passes a person can purchase but they limit you as to the times of day you can travel on the trains (mainly you won’t be
using those trains during any rush hours if you buy the cheap pass).  As a tourist that is always on the move, I do not like restrictions so the
more flexible more expensive passes work best for me.  Oh did I mention that the trains are Clean and well Kept?  Note to the physically
challenged…not all tube stops/stations are accessible with elevators.  Please check the maps prior to going anywhere in the city so you’ll know
what stops work best for wheelchairs.

Onward… so what’s the 1st thing to do when you get to London?  Well, I guess that’s all going to depend on you.  I’ll go through some of the
highlights and give you some suggestions.  If you are booking a trip to London through my office, all you need to do is tell us how busy you
want to be each day sightseeing and we will be more than happy to map out a schedule for you so that you see everything you want to.

A lot of people insist that you must see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. I think it’s pretty neat because the only thing
that we have here in the states that I could compare it to (which really isn’t even a comparison)  is the changing or the guard at the tomb of the unknown soldiers.  Anyway, back to the changing of the guard ceremony….In the summer the ceremony takes places daily (every other day
in off season), to verify schedules check the official website click here: “Changing of the Guard“.  I found that I enjoy standing right to the
side of the main gate (front row) but another great place to see all the events are by standing directly in front of the gates up on top of the
Victoria Monument.  The key to the entire event is to get there early and stake out your spot.  Bring a beverage & a snack that you can enjoy
while you wait on the activities to begin.  The guards with the bands start arriving at the gates about 11:15am.  You want to be there well
before then to see it all. You get to see the band and the beefeaters enter the palace do their inspections and then relive the current soldiers
on duty at which point they will exit the gate.  Go ahead see if you can make one of them smile.

Interested in seeing the official cars of the Royal Family, including the Royal Horses or getting a peek at some of the artwork that rotates in and
out of Buckingham Palace?  Check out the Royal Mews and the Queens Gallery after you leave the guard ceremony. These 2 locations are
just right around the corner from the front gate so why not stop on in.  If your dream is to step foot into Buckingham Palace then you better
schedule your visit during August (and sometimes September) when the Queen takes her summer holiday.  This is the only time you are
allowed into see the state rooms of the palace.  Always check the official schedule before planning your trip around this! 

If a church visit or two is on your agenda, I highly recommend a visit to Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Westminster Abbey
is where the Kings and Queens of England have been crowned and buried since 1066.  You can choose between an audio guide or a guided
tour of the Cloisters and the Abbey museum.  Both are reasonable in pricing and if you are taking the time to visit, you should at least know
what you are seeing.  When you see the tomb “Elizabeth’s” be advised that this is the tomb of both Elizabeth I and Mary I, both ladies are buried
beneath this tomb.  Check out the Chapel of King Henry VII and   the tomb of Mary, Queen of Scots. Note that no touring of the Abbey is
allowed on Sundays. It is a place of worship so if your desire is to attend mass, it’s a get day to go.  St. Paul’s is another great stop on the
church tours of London.  The Dome is a highlight of this cathedral and you can even climb to the top of the dome (409 steps). The journey
up the steps is an adventure of its own…read up on it if you plan to make the climb. And don’t forget to visit the Crypt at St. Paul’s!

Because the U.K. is an old and established country a you can’t even begin to imagine the amount of history items a person can spend looking
at during their visit to London.  The British Library –  if you are short on time focus on the “Treasures Room”. What can you see here?
How about the Codex Sinaiticus (C.A.D 350), The Kings James Bible (1611), Leonardo da Vinci’s Notebook, The Magna Carta, and what about
the hand written manuscripts by Lennon & McCartney of the Beatles!

My favorite stop in the history department of touring London is of course the Tower of London.  How cool is it to be able to see the Royal
Gems up close!  Hear the story of the Tower of London and get your picture next to a beefeater.  This is one stop on your trip that is a must
do in my opinion.  If you are booking a trip to London with my office, ask us about a “special free tour” option that we want to share with you.

If ART is your love, then you will have lots of opportunities to see what your heart desires. Here’s some of the great places you can visit to
see art.  The British Museum, The National Gallery , The Victoria and Albert Museum and the Tate Britain.  My favorite is the National Gallery
because I love to see Monet’s Water-Lily Pond (1899) and Van  Gogh’s – Sunflowers (1888).  All the greats can be found at the National Gallery including but not limited to, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Monet and Leonardo da Vinci .  I recommend you get the audio guide so that you can
explore the pieces that interest you.   Art is a personal thing so please make sure you check out each of the links above to see which museums showcase what you love most.  Also, there are numerous other museums in London to explore so it wouldn’t hurt to Google
“Museums in London” to obtain a full list. Want an “off the wall” museum to visit?  Well, this one isn’t for the weak at heart! Check out the
Old Operating Museum Theater where you will see the actual 1st operating theater in London.  Look closely enough and you might just see
some old blood stains from when they would saw off limbs.  It truly is an interesting walk through early medicine and medical operating in
early London (1821).  Again, parts of this exhibit can be graphic so this one might not be suitable for everyone. 

Tired of the museums and in need of some retail therapy?  I need not say anything more than HARRODS!  Harrods is London’s most famous
& touristy department store. Don’t bring big bags or backpacks into this store- they’ll charge you to store them. Make sure you grab a free
store guide when you enter so you can find your way around.  On the lower ground floor you will find a memorial to Princess Diane and Dodi
Fayed (Dodi’s father owns Harrods). At the memorial you will see the engagement ring that Dodi had purchased for Diana the day before they
died as well as the wine glass that was used at their last dinner together (still dirty).  Want to buy your child a kids size hummer? No Problem,
it will only cost you about $15,000 USD items like this are available in the toy kingdom of this fabulous department store.  Anything your
overspending heart can desire can be found at Harrods.  Getting a tad hungry while shopping, no need to worry, I think you have about 22
different dining options to chose from at Harrods.  Everything from afternoon tea to pizza to cavier! Even a Disney Café to please the little
ones traveling with you.

Speaking of dining…London is nothing like Greece or Paris or Asia  where to have unique foods of your region.  Londoners do have of course 
have the Fish & Chips but what about a cool dining experience?  Well, have you ever eaten in a Crypt before?  If not, go check out the Café in
the Crypt where you can dine with historical tombstones at your feet.  Café in the Crypt is located at St. Martin in the Fields – downstairs.
Check their website for operating hours. Or what about a Medieval Banquet.  This is not just dinner it’s dinner and an experience.  Fun for all
ages. What better place to do a medieval dinner than in London right?  Or, if your a foodie and want to check out a local celebrity’s venue,
head to one of Gordon Ramsay’s many dining venues, I think he has 11 now in London? Wow guess you can’t go wrong with Gordon!

What’s some other interesting unique things to do in London?  Well, what about a 30 minute trip around at the London Eye.  They offer all
kinds of ticket experiences so you’re sure to find something to please you.  I even took a friend that was afraid of heights and they didn’t
seem to have an issue during the ride although I will admit she didn’t lean up against any of the windows. You’ll have great views of London
from the top along with Big Ben and the River Thames.  What about a visit to the Famous Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks.  See  your favorite
stars waxed for eternity and have your photo taken with them.  I wonder how long it will be before Baby Prince George gets in there? There is
one section in there called the Chamber of Horrors which might not be suitable for small children or those that do not like horror films.  Want
a scary night tour?  I recommend the Jack the Ripper night walking tour.  It’s filled with lots of history details about the city along with
the story of Jack the Ripper. Make sure you pick an experienced and reputable tour company to get the best experience. And what about a
visit to a famous icon of London?  The Tower Bridge! Yes, you can tour the bridge including the Engine Rooms.

What’s the best way to see as much of London as possible without breaking the bank?  The London Pass of course!  I HIGHLY recommend this
to anyone traveling to London that plans to visit as much as possible during their visit.

There are so many great things to do in London and so many great places to go in London that I’ve decided to end this blog off with the short
list above and will continue with more London adventures at a later time.  Maybe we will wait until Prince George turns 1?  Just a thought.
But remember this, if you want to visit this fun, fabulous city yourself, give us a call and we’ll be more than happy to help make your trip an experience you will never forget!

Wishing you all safe & happy travels!
Diane

Perfect time for Alaska

Here we are in the middle of summer and a lot of us are feeling the HEAT of it.  People that live in areas of the country that face temps in the
90’s or 100’s on a daily basis throughout the summer really want a nice cool down.  What better place to go in the summer and see
beautiful scenery, nature & wildlife as well as have cooler temperatures?  ALASKA is the place to be!

A lot of 1st time visitors to Alaska will take the standard 7 day Inside Passage Cruise to Alaska.  What is an Inside Passage Cruise you ask?
Well, an inside passage cruise is a sailing that goes round-trip in & out of either Seattle Washington or Vancouver BC and will travel up through
the inside passage area of Alaska ( a coastal route for ocean going vessels along a network of passages which weave through the islands on
the Pacific Coast of North America) then visits ports such as – Juneau Alaska, Ketchikan Alaska, and Skagway Alaska before heading back down
and returning to the original departure port of Seattle or Vancouver.

The benefits of doing an inside passage cruise is that it is a quick way to give people a look into Alaska with the ease of packing & unpacking
1 time.  It tends to offer the passengers the best of airfare because you are not flying as far North as Fairbanks Alaska or Anchorage Alaska.
It also works well for those passengers that are on tighter time restraints due to work schedules or school schedules.  People still in the
work force here in the U.S. sometimes find it harder to take of 10+ days for vacation.  The 7-Night inside passage cruise of Alaska can be the
perfect match for them.

If you only have time for the 7-night Inside Passage Cruise of Alaska then you will want to make the most of it.  People always ask, “Do I really
want or need a balcony cabin while on an Alaska Cruise?” The answer is this – If you can afford a balcony cabin without cutting into your
sightseeing budget, then by all means take the balcony cabin!  It’s not like having a balcony cabin while cruising in the Caribbean where a
person will sit out on their balcony enjoying their morning breakfast or sipping cocktails before dinner.  Alaska waters are COLD! You will
enjoy your balcony at a different level in Alaska.  Being able to step out onto your balcony to watch the scenery go by, watch for whales
off the side of the ship as you are cruising, or taking a hot cup of cocoa or coffee out there for some fresh clean air in the morning to watch the
sunrise or sunset…,either way, you need to be dressed warmly.

The reason I say only take a balcony if it doesn’t take from your sight-seeing budget is this…. You travel all the way to Alaska, you want to be
able to get off the ship and see the sights and beautiful attractions that the towns have to offer.  If you have spent all of  your vacation dollars
on your cabin accommodations, then you will not be able to get the most out of your cruise vacation!  It’s one thing to say “I went on an
Alaskan Cruise” but it’s a completely different story when you can say ” I went on a bear watching tour in Alaska” or “I took a helicopter
ride and landed on a glacier while I was in Alaska”.  It’s the adventures of the trip that make the trip so spend the money on the adventures if
you have to choose between them and the accommodations.

So, what are some of the sights to see while in Alaska?  Each port has different things to see or do in them.  Ask any travel agent or person
that has been to Alaska what they recommend and they will probably all have a different “favorite”.

In Juneau I personally think that no matter what you don in Juneau, you should always include a stop/visit to the Mendenhall Glacier. This
is the top highlight in Juneau to see.  Juneau is also one of my favorite places to go whale-watching.  So, for a person like myself I will do a
sightseeing tour that combines both of these activities, making for a full day of touring.

In Skagway, one of the highlights there is the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad.  Now, to take this particular excursion, you will need to take
along your passport because the train ride from Skagway ends in Canada where the mounties board and check everyone’s I.D.’s. This railroad
was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush.  It climbs to 3000 feet in just 20 minutes and has steep turns, 2 tunnels and numerous
bridges.  Its one of the best tours to see some of the inland portion of Alaska if you are on a 7-night inside passage cruise. From the train you
can see beautiful mountains, waterfalls, breathtaking gorges and glaciers.  It’s an old fashioned train, not like the Amtrak trains of today or
even the glass dome trains that are well known throughout the Alaska interiors.  This train offers fabulous views from your seat and allows you
the opportunity to go stand outside on the back of the car and feel the rush of the cool air  as you pass all the beauty that Alaska has to offer.
If you are booking your cruise with a truly experienced travel agent, we can even help advise you as to what side of the train car to sit on,
during your journey up the mountain so that you get the best of the views from your seat.  But, what is there to do after you get to the top?
well, this again is where an experienced agent is going to come in handy…. we are going to help give you recommendations so that you make
the most of your railroad journey by pairing the train ride up with another fabulous journey on the way back down the mountain.

And what about Ketchikan?  One of the towns highlights is the Totem Pole Park.  This is a great place to see lots of totem poles but better yet,
to learn about what the carvings on the totem poles mean.  And, if you want to, you too can actually be the “lowest man on the totem pole”.
A quick visit and you will know exactly what I mean.  Ketchikan is a great place to take a float plane sight-seeing tour or even go
on a fishing excursion or  if your pocket book allows, a bear watching excursion.  Not always is a person required to take a tour to see bears…
they have a tendency to pop up where you might least expect one.  Ask the residents of Ketchikan and they will tell you the tales of how the
bears come up onto their front porches to dig into the trash bins.  Oh and lets not forget about the Bald Eagles!  Alaska is the place to see them.

Now, for those that have more than 7 days to spend on their vacations, I really do recommend a Cruise/Tour package.  What is a Cruise/Tour
package?  This is a land package in Alaska that can range from 3 days to 20 days with a 7-night Alaska Cruise packaged with it.  You can do the
land package before or after the cruise, although most travel agents have their preference as to which way a client should do their trip. And
with the land portion of the package, you can choose what highlights in Alaska you want to see.  Some people want to see Fairbanks while
others want to see Anchorage.  I personally always recommend you see Denali National Park and Mt. McKinley.  When planning to do
an Alaska Cruise/Tour package I HIGHLY recommend the use of an experienced travel agent.  Some cruise lines can offer up to 35+
different land package options, an experienced travel agent should be able to help you narrow that list down to 2-3 to choose from just
by speaking with you and getting a feel as to what is most important for you to see.

One of the things that I always recommend to my clients visiting Alaska and doing a Cruise/Tour package is to always pick a tour that includes
a ride on the glass dome train.  These trains are a true highlight when visiting the interior areas of Alaska.  These trains have dining available
and offer some fabulous dining menus.  With the quality of the food being served on these trains you’d think you were sitting in a 5-Star
restaurant. The difference being that on the glass dome trains you have a moving view with your meal.  Be on the lookout for a moose or
bear hanging around on the side of the tracks as the trains come through.  The glass dome trains also offer a full service bar.  I had one of the
BEST chocolate drinks ever in my life aboard one of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines glass dome train cars. Great Food, Great Drinks, Great
Views…who could ask for anything better during their vacation!

While visiting the interior sections of Alaska you will have the opportunity to do all types of tours or excursions.  There is always something
for everyone to do.  Don’t feel like going on an excursion?  No problem, the lodges in Alaska offer comfortable accommodations and great
views.  Taking a stroll around the lodge or just sitting in front of the fireplace with other guests is a joy all its own.

When it comes to picking out excursions to do during your land vacation, again, I cannot stress enough the importance of using an
experienced travel agent.  A good honest TA will be more than happy to help you choose things that are to your liking.  There are also
some very adventurous tours that a person can do like white water rafting !  Yep, that’s right I said White Water Rafting in ALASKA!  No
worries, the people that run that tour will get you all suited up in waterproof outfits and boots so that your journey will be enjoyable. Not
into white water rafting, no problem, what about taking a 6 passenger flight seeing trip through Mt. McKinley.  If you choose to do this tour
my recommendation is don’t even  try to capture the beauty you will see on film because pictures will never do it justice to the actual
beauty you will see in person and later try to describe to your friends or family.  This is a MUST SEE for yourself type of tour!

Whens the best time to visit Alaska? Well, the Alaska cruise season runs from the middle of May through the middle of September.  That’s it
folks, it’s a very short window of opportunity to do the Alaska Cruise each year.  The beginning of the season (May), the temps can tend to be
a bit cooler but you might see heavy animal activity along the shore lines as the animals come out of hibernation and bring their babies down
to the waterfront for a quick drink or snack.   Some will tell you that the last week in July is the best week for whale watching.  I don’t
know if that’s really true or not as I haven’t had an issue seeing whales on any trip to Alaska.  If you are a shopper then I recommend you
make your trip at the end of the season (September) because all the stores get ready to close down for the year and they have the best
sales of the season going on.  Close-out sales from 50-80% off inventory!  That’s a great time to buy lots of gifts for those stuck at home
collecting your mail or watering your flowers. You will pay less for your cruise if you go at the beginning or end of the Alaska season, and
traveling  mid June through the later part of August tends to run the higher prices for your Alaska cruise.

One thing that I have stressed a lot in this blog is the use of experienced travel agents when planning your Alaska trip.  If you want your
trip to be the best trip possible then please use an experienced agent.  There are so many vacation choices for Alaska out there and unless
you have endless amounts of time to do your own research in planning your own trip, why not let a professional help you?

I wish you a summer filled with adventure and fun!  And remember, if you can’t stand the heat, take an ALASKA Cruise Vacation!!!!

Sending you Sunshine & Smiles,
Diane

Portland, Oregon says “Goodbye Grey, hello blue!!!”

Put away your fleece and rain boots, its summertime in the Northwest!  Sunshine, blue skies, sandy beaches, pristine mountains. Whatever
you’re in the mood for, you’ll find it here. So many choices, so little time!

Whether you want to stay in the city or take a short road trip, Portland Oregon and the surrounding areas offer many things to do:

Want to stay in the city?  Lose yourself in Powell’s City of Books.  The book store covers an entire city block and contains more than 1.5 million
books. This book store will blow your mind, whether you’re a reader of not, it’s a cool place to visit and check out!

Enjoy the nation’s largest weekly open-air arts and crafts market at Portland Saturday Market where hundreds of unique creations are made
by the people selling them. I highly suggest a stop by the Portland’s Elephant Ears booth to sample this unique sugary treat !  If you have
never heard of an Elephant Ear before, it’s a cross between a Funnel Cake and a Churro! YUMMY!

Want to talk about another food icon in Portland?  Voodoo Donuts  is a MUST see unique one of a kind donut shop offering specialty donuts
that range from their registered trademark Voodoo Donut Doll to their donuts with different types of cereal imaginable on top- Fruit Loops,
Captain Crunch & Coco Puffs!  Oh My, don’t forget to try the Bacon Maple Bar Donut!  Can you believe a donut topped with actual strips of
crunchy bacon on it?! WOW sweet and salty all in one is a WIN in my book! Name your taste and I’m sure they have something for you, even
Vegan’s are covered at this place.  Another food icon in this great city is the Portland Food Carts. If  you are a foodie, like I am, then you
have to check out the food carts & trucks here in the city.

Forest Park– hiking, biking, running.  You’ll need some exercise after eating the above mentioned treats.  Here in forest park you’ll find all
types of things to do in this urban forest reserve.  Note, it’s one of the largest in the country.  One thing you can’t do in this park is FISH.

Quick trip to the beach?  You can be at the Oregon coast in approximately 90 minutes with a plethora of activities to choose from.  You can
even camp at the beach here along the Oregon coast.  Beverly Beach is one of the state’s largest state parks hidden in a forest between Cape
Foulweather and the Yaquina Head.  Next time someone tells you to “Go fly a kite”…head to Beverly Beach and fly that kite !

Ready for some excitement on this trip to Oregon?  Take a spin white water rafting in Maupin. Oregon.  You can be at the Deschutes River for
amazing white water rafting in just 90 minutes from Portland.  You’ll find trips for every range of interest and every level of ability, from
half-day thrillers to 5-day adventures through the heard of wild Oregon.   

If the sugary treats aren’t your cup of tea, maybe you’d be up for a little wine tasting?  A short 30 minute drive out of Portland  and you can
visit Willamette Valley, the heart of Oregon’s wine country with more than 300 wineries to choose from.  Also check out the area for special
festivals and events taking place.  Just remember your designated Driver because everyone is sure to have a good time sampling all these
great wines.  No one wants to be the DD?  No problem, let’s get you hooked up with a car & driver for the day, leave the driving to the sober
professional driver.  Or, how about just staying in the area at a great B&B for the night?

A point of a interest for anyone looking for a mountainside lodge is the Timberline Lodge.  The Timberline Lodge is a mountain lodge on the
south side of Mt. Hood in Oregon, about 60 miles east of Portland.  This National Historic Landmark sits at an elevation of 5,960 feet within
the Mount Hood National Forest.  Its a popular tourist attraction, drawing more than a million visitors annually and is noted in the film
for serving as the exterior over the Overlook Hotel in the movie the Shining. 

On your way down the mountain from the Timberline Lodge, stop at the Ski Bowl for a little summer fun.  Start by taking a leisurely ride on the
ski lift and finish by zooming down the mountain on a go kart (or mountain bike, but I’m liking this go kart idea!)…we are talking summer
right now so we’ll leave the snow skiing and snow boarding for the winter month visits.

Columbia River Gorge:  last but not least, take a ride out to the Columbia River Gorge for some incredibly breathtaking scenery.  This is the
largest national scenic area in the United States consisting of natural contrasts between rain forest and desert.  Here you will find the
world famous Multnomah Falls whish is a must see when visiting this region!  Plummeting 620 feet, Multnomah Falls is the second highest
year round waterfall in the United States.  Whether you want to leisurely view the falls from below or hike up to the amazing vista of the
Columbia Gorge, you won’t be disappointed!

And because you all know I am a foodie, I’ll end this with another food tip- When visiting the falls, stop by the Multnomah Falls Lodge for some
fabulous Marionberry or Huckleberry pancakes before or after your hike up the falls.  GREAT Pancakes and Great Views make for a
wonderful dining experience.

So, hopefully we’ve given new light to Portland, Oregon so that the next time you think about Oregon, you aren’t thinking “Rain” you’re thinking
fun & outdoor adventures!

This article wouldn’t have happened without the great input from my best friend and resident Oregon lover- Joyce Pilotte!  Thanks Joyce for
spending your weekend sending me info on some of the great things we did when I went to visit.  We only covered a few but if you are
interested in visiting Portland, let me know so I can tell you about the Underground City Tour, The Drag Queen Show, the Japanese Gardens
and this great mountain that even I made it up when we hiked! Lots to do & see in this fun easy going city!

Norwegian Cruise Lines- The Breakaway

Well, I’m a little overdue in updating the blog this week but have been on a couple of trips lately and
you can imagine the paperwork that needs catching up on here in the office.

So, let’s talk about my recent trip on the Inaugural sailing of the NCL Breakaway which is sailing from the
NYC Manhattan Port.

I had flown into the La Guardia airport and my traveling companion (another travel agent) had taken the
Amtrak into the city from Baltimore.  I used Super Shuttle to get from the LGA airport to the cruise terminal
for a wonderfully LOW fare.  Although, for this low fare, it was a shared shuttle.  Getting to the ship wasn’t
a big deal because I was the last one to be picked up at the airport and was the 3rd one let off the shuttle in
the city.  I can’t imagine how long it took the other people in the shuttle to get where they were going, Using
the shuttle from LGA to the ship took me from 1 hour and 20 minutes, it was a Friday afternoon – lunch time
and traffic was CRAZY busy in the city. I wasn’t in a hurry but for those that just like to get where they are
going this would NOT be the best source of transfer for you.  – Wait until I tell you about the return transfer
to the airport.

I have been on a LOT of ships including the largest cruise ships in the World.  I was just on another NCL
ship this past July 2012 in Hawaii so my expectations of the NCL Breakaway were really biased because on
that ship, itinerary and sailing experience.  Let me begin by saying that this ship was in fact a HUGE
Surprise to me.

Starting with NCL’s well known hull artwork, this ship’s hull artwork  was designed by the world famous
artist Peter Max. An art lover can always spot a Peter Max piece from a mile away so when I 1st saw the
front of this ship, I said to myself “Wow, Peter Max did the Breakaway!”

The cruise terminal in Manhattan was easy to get through and plenty of NCL employees were out there to
assist in everyone boarding.  These types of inaugural sailings are normally limited to agents, press, and
cruise line employees.  But as we were boarding I saw quite a few families boarding with children.  Children
are a rare site to see on events like this.  After inquiring about who these “families” were, I was told that
these families were victims of Hurricane Sandy and were treated to this sailing by talk show host
Katie Couric.  It sure appeared that they all were having a GREAT time onboard.

Every cruise ship has a Godmother and the Breakaway’s Godmother is the legendary ROCKETTES.  There
was plenty of star power at the christening ceremony of the Breakaway.  Memorabilia from the Rockettes
can be found in the library on the ship.  Old costumes from the years & special events gone by.  Members
from the Rockettes team will be sailing on the ship for the 1st month and then, should you want to be on a
sailing with them in the future, you need to book the 1st week of the month.  Onboard that week with the
dancers, they host a Q&A session with the guests and show you footage of what it takes to become one of
these well known dancers.  Plus, if that’s not enough, you can attend a mini Rockettes dance lesion right
there onboard the ship.  Sound Fun? If so, make sure you book a sailing that they will be on for this extra
bit of enjoyment during your cruising week.

Who doesn’t know Buddy Valastro of the hit Reality TV show The Cake Boss?  Want to sample some of
Buddy’s special creations?  Just get onboard this ship and you’ll have the chance.  Buddy has cake shop
onboard the ship (extra charge for the goodies in there).  He was on our sailing but don’t expect to see him
on all the sailings…. the launching of his cake shop at sea was a special occasion.

The Atrium area on the Breakaway is one of the most open, airy and inviting lobby areas I have ever seen on
a cruise ship.  The Purser’s Desk, Shore Excursion Desk, a Café Lobby Bar, Carlos Bakery are a few of the
things that can be found in the Atrium.  There is LOTS of seating in the lobby area so gather with friends or
to watch whatever is going on, on the giant 2 story wifi wall screen that is the backdrop for the atrium.

The Casino on this ship is very large and broken up into sections.  Looking through all the slot machines, I
found that I was finding more & more as I went wound every corner.  They do offer a non-smoking section
of the casino which has table games as well as slots but the main section of the casino does allow smoking.
For the non-smokers this is a downfall.  Many cruise lines & ships are starting to make their casinos non-
smoking.  From the feedback I was getting, a large amount of people wish that NCL would have made the
Breakaway’s new casino non-smoking.

Listen up Mom’s & Dad’s – KIDS of all ages are going to LOVE the NCL Breakaway!  Who better to have a
sail away party with on the back deck than Spongebob Squarepants and all his friends!  The waterpark on
this ship has HEATED water so even in the winter when this ship is sailing from NYC to the Caribbean, the
kids (and kids of all ages) will still be able to enjoy the Aqua Park and the 5 multi story water slides!  Water
is not the only fun outdoor activity for kids of all ages on this ship.  The NCL Breakaway has a 3-story
sports complex featuring The Plank which extends 8 feet over the side of the ship- WOW!  There’s also a
miniature golf course, the largest rope course at sea, rock climbing, basketball court and a bungee
trampoline!  If all of this won’t wear the energy right out of your kids then I’m sure the certified & trained
counselors at the Splash Academy will keep them going until the evening hours.

Are you a picky eater?  Have no fear onboard this ship as you will have PLENTY of dining options to choose
from.  There are 6 free dining venues to choose from as well as 24 hour room service. For those that want
to try some of the specialty dining venues there are an additional 8 restaurants available that charge a service
fee.  I find that the additional fee’s at these restaurants are minimal and a great way to try something new for
a small additional cost.  One of the new specialty dining options is Ocean Blue by master chef Geoffrey
Zakarian.  And the ship offers 2 additional treat shop options for a fee – Dolce Gelato and Carlo’s Bake Shop.
But remember…there’s always plenty of FREE food and dining opportunities to choose from so you do not
have to spend extra for dining if you do not wish to.  Free soft serve ice cream available in the buffet area!

Let’s talk about some of the shows onboard the ship.  I am very pleased to see that a cruise ship FINALLY
has a what I will refer to as a dinner club atmosphere!  You dine in the main dining room and then at 9:00pm
the dance floor that is in the center of the dining room becomes a dance show called Burn the Floor which
you can watch while enjoying your coffee and desserts.  So, even with all the great dining opportunities,
I recommend you check out the main dining room at least 1 night so that you can see these fabulous dancers
perform!

My absolute FAVORITE show onboard was the Cirque Dreams and Dinner Jungle Fantasy!  It’s a small
venue and I don’t think there’s really any bad seats in the house for this event.  While everyone is enjoying
the SAME menu (unless you have food allergies or are a vegetarian), you see a fabulous Cirque show. Our
dinner consisted of Lobster Tail and Filet Mignon.  I would check with the venue in regards to the dinner
being served the night you attend just in case it’s different.  There is a charge to dine in here but I think you
will find it well worth it.  I loved how the characters were always walking around in the table areas and
the waiters took care to never block the views of the diners.

A close 2nd to this show was the Rock of Ages show onboard. Note that this show would not be recommended
for children or anyone that takes offense to foul language or shows with sexual content.  If you are a fan of
80’s rock music, then this show if for you.  It was funny, full of great music and the entertainers were GREAT!

The Breakaway will also offer a fireworks display towards the end of every sailing.  Due to storms off the NYC
coast, our display was cancelled so I can’t tell you 1st hand how great it was or not.  But, I can bet based on
the write up about what they will be doing, it should be a good show for the guests onboard.  The ship also
has a lunch comedy improve show.  I am not a huge fan of improv and the luncheon selection was a bit
disappointing to me for this show.  This was one that I personally wouldn’t give the 2 thumbs up to but
others seemed to enjoy the show a lot.  The shows I have mentioned above are just a small selection of the
shows & entertainment offered on this ship.  Chick on one of the 2 links to read more about what this ship
offers.  Breakaway Shows or Breakaway Entertainment.

Accommodations….. NCL has a couple of unique stateroom options not offered by any other cruise line.  Of
course they have your standard interior cabins, ocean view cabins, balcony cabin and suites but this ship
also caters to those passengers that travel by themselves with their new STUDIO Cabins.  These are interior
cabins that have a large round window with blinds on it that should you open the blinds you look out into the
hallway.  These are smaller cabins with a private bath designed & specially priced for the single passenger
who doesn’t want to pay the 200% cruise fare for the standard cabin that will accommodate 2 people.  For
the passenger who likes the best of the best, NCL’s Breakaway offers The Haven!  This is a separate area of
the ship for passengers booked in suites.  The Haven offers suite guests their own pool area, bar with
bartenders, concierges desk, fitness area, sun deck, poolside valet, butler service, and in room butler dining.
I don’t know about you but this is my kind od treatment for a vacation!

The spa and gym onboard are very nice.  The spa offers and a large Vitality pool and also offers the 1st ever
at sea Salt Room!  Unless you are booked in a Spa Suite which includes your entry into these areas for free,
be prepared to pay a nice fee to get in here and use these items each day.  I believe the spa told me that the
normal person not booked in a Spa Suite would pay $39 per person per day to use these areas.  Just want a
hot tub to use, no problem, there are still plenty of regular hot tubs around the open deck areas that you can
use for no extra cost.  I personally hope that NCL will come up with a special weekly rate offer for the spa
because $39 per day per person will add up quickly for the common couple cruising that would like to hit
the Vitality Pool each day!

When the ship returned back to the dock after our short little getaway, my traveling companion and myself
had a wonderful walking tour that we had prearranged prior to going to NYC.  Our Guide was Brian and he
took us to the locations that we wanted to see.  Although he offers “tour itineraries”, he will take the clients
to see what they want to see. He truly was fabulous at customizing our 4 hours with him.  We started off by
taking a quick 4 minute taxi ride from the ship to Penn Station/Madison Square Garden where we met up
with Brian.  He then helped us get our subway tickets for the day and off we were on our 1st NYC Subway
ride.  We went to the 9/11 Memorial and Brian had already confirmed our 3 tickets in advance.  This was a
huge benefit because if you do not order your tickets in advance, you have to wait in line to get tickets and
then wait in another line to get into the Memorial.  I think we bypassed about 100+ people in the various
lines by having had Brian get our tickets in advance.  Brian is a born and raised New Yorker and is a licensed
NYC tour guide.  He was  knowledgable  on the events that took place on 9/11.  We couldn’t have asked for
a better guide to the memorial.  Personally as soon as the 9/11 Museum opens in 2013, I plan to make
a follow-up trip to NYC and have Brian escort me once again on the journey of remembering 9/11.  After our
visit to the memorial, my traveling companion wanted to visit Chinatown and eat Dim Sum.  Hey, I got to
see the 9/11 Memorial so who am I to complain when she wanted to visit Chinatown to eat.  Anyone that
knows me, knows I love tours and I love food!  Before heading to Chinatown, Brian took us by the NY Stock
Exchange and told us various stories about the buildings in the area and events that took place on these
streets.  Then it was onto the subway once again to head to Chinatown.  Brian took us to his favorite places
in Chinatown to eat and we all got a few different food items to share.  After our Chinatown visit it was back
onto the subway to return to Penn Station so that my traveling companion could catch her Amtrak train back
to Baltimore and where I was meeting up with my Super Shuttle to take me to the LGA airport.  Should you
be visiting NYC and want a great guide who’s not overpriced, check out Brian’s website and then call me to
get you booked with him!

Now, about that return transfer…again this was an inexpensive transfer from Penn Station to the LGA
airport.  My flight was for 4:50pm and the shuttle company told me that I had to be picked up at 1:00pm
from Penn Station.  I asked why I had to be picked up so early to go to the airport on a Sunday afternoon and
they advised me that I could request a later transfer if I’d like but then they couldn’t guarantee I’d make my
flight departure time.  So, I played by the rules, got on my shuttle at 12:55pm and was the 1st one on this time.
After 6 other stops and almost 2 hours later I was the 1st to be dropped off at the airport.  I will tell you this-
I will gladly pay 5X’s the cost of the shuttle next time I’m in NYC to give myself extra sight-seeing time in the
city.  2 hours on a transfer that should have only taken 25 minutes was uncalled for.  Word of advise- check
taxi costs or private shuttle costs before subjecting yourself to hours on a shared shuttle!

I returned home from NYC on Sunday, Mother’s Day and I cannot wait to get back on the Breakaway with a
group in the future along with spending some more time playing in NYC!

Safe Travels My Friends!

Make Group Travel EASY!

It’s definitely GROUP season in the travel world!  Small groups of a few family members traveling for Spring Break, friends booking in larger groups that
have a common interest (Hair Groups, Music Groups, Foodies, Dance Groups, -you name it and it can be a group!) and don’t forget about corporate
group travel big & small.  What can you do to make your group trip the best it can be?

#1 – Have each person that will be traveling in the group be responsible for his or her own booking with the travel agent

** The agent needs to ask specific questions about each person traveling- medical or dietary issues, special requests etc.  These are best asked directly
to the traveler and not through a 3rd person.

#2- Groups Leaders should direct all questions & concerns from the group directly to the travel agent, group leaders should not play “middle man”.

**If you want to know what the dress attire is for your trip, ask your agent.  The person that put the group together may not be well traveled and may
not be able to provide you with the best and most current information.

#3- When traveling anywhere outside the county (including  a Caribbean Cruise), make Passport’s MANDATORY for all passengers

** When cruising to the Caribbean round-trip from a U.S. port, a U.S. Citizen can technically get by with a valid Driver’s License and their original Birth      Certificate (or certified true copy of it).  However, if you run into any emergencies while on travel outside the U.S. you will not be able to fly back to
the U.S. without that passport!  Be safe, get the passport and know that all is good!

#4- Make sure each person in the group purchases Travel Insurance!

** Travel Insurance covers the unexpected!  It protects you prior to departure and it protects you while on travel! Most U.S. medical insurances do not
cover you the minute you leave the U.S. this is a great reason to have travel insurance.  A medical evacuation runs tens of thousands of dollars….
get travel insurance to protect you issues like this.

#5- If traveling with multiple rooms or cabins of family members, ask the travel agent to copy all parties involved on e-mail correspondence

** I recently dealt with a family that had multiple cabins going and each person wanted to contact the agent and ask different questions then they would  “attempt” to pass along the information to the rest of the travelers in the other rooms.  How much information gets lost each time the story gets
repeated? A LOT!  SO, to help ensure everyone in the group was getting the SAME and CORRECT information directly from me, I started replying to
the entire group when 1 person would send me an e-mail asking a question.

#6- Read everything your travel agent sends you CAREFULLY and THOUROGHLY!

** Your agent should be providing you with everything you need to know prior to travel in regards to the arrangements he/she has made for you.
PLEASE take the time to read over everything they send you!  I recently had a large group travel and 7 days prior to the start of the trip, I had
members of the group calling asking questions about things that should have been taken care of 30 days prior. Example- I arranged group transfers
for the group to get  from the airport to a cruise ship.  Each person was supposed to contact me no later than 30 days prior to departure with their
air schedule so that I could provide the details to the transfer company.  7 days prior to the trip, people were calling me asking “where’s my transfer
voucher” and the only reply I could give was “did you call me with your flight details?”  So many of these guests openly admitted to me that they
had NOT read their paperwork I had sent them and just assumed I would take care of everything or would call them personally if I needed
anything further. Remember- your group is probably not the only group the agent is taking care of.  Your agent needs YOU to be responsible for your
booking.

#7- Ask questions!  Anthing you want to know about your trip – Ask the AGENT booking it!

**As you think of questions that you would like to discuss, write them down so that way the next time you talk to your agent or e-mail them you can go
over your questions together.  Think about sending your questions in an e-mail and copying the other members of your group in the e-mail.  You may
have thought of a question that they hadn’t thought of and it might be helpful to them as well. Ask the other members of your group to share their
questions with you as well.

#8- Make PAYMENTS along the way….

** When you book group travel well in advance, your payment are normally broken down into 2-3 payments.  I always highly encourage all our travelers
to make payments  once a month or every pay day towards their trip.  This way when the final payment due date rolls around, it will not catch 1/2 your
group off guard.  More people cancel out at time of final payment when booked in a group due to not having the funds to make the final payment.
If you are making payment installments along the way, the final won’t be nearly as large!

#9 – Ask your Travel Agent for advise on booking tours & Excursions

** If your trip is the type that allows you to add in extra tours or side trips, talk to your agent about which of these would be best for you and your
traveling companions.  Also, if the entire group wants to do the same tours, a group discount can normally be gotten!

#10- Work with a Travel Agent that is familiar with booking group travel and escorting group travel!

** Don’t you want an experienced group agent who is well traveled helping your group?  It only makes sense to me to have a true professional help you
plan your trip!  If I was getting the engine of my car worked on, I would not take it to the tire shop down the street for the work to be done…It’s gonna
go to the SPECIALIST!

I have booked and escorted many groups over the years and I can tell you that the best travelers in the groups are the ones that READ the paperwork
I send them and call or e-mail me with their questions.  If you don’t ask questions, we can’t help you.

If you have never been part of a group trip,you should try it, they can be LOTS of FUN! As a group leader (the person that brings the group to the travel
agent, you have the opportunity to earn free travel or money back after the group travel.  Do you have a group of friends, family members or co-workers
would you would like to travel with?  Make it happen, call your agent and get started on putting together a great group trip!

Happy Group Travels My Friends! Diane

Let’s talk VEGAS Baby!

Have you had the opportunity to visit Vegas?  Been in the past 5 years?  The last 2 years?
This is a city that just continues to grow so if you aren’t hitting this city up for a visit every 2 years, you should
make the trip to see for yourself just what all the buzz is about.

Gambling- In case you are not aware, gambling is available – EVERYWHERE in Vegas! Stop by a gas station
to fill up the car, might as well play a slot machine while your inside grabbing a coke or candy bar.  Vegas
offers gamblers everything from penny slot machines to $100 slot machines to poker, blackjack, craps,
roulette, pai-gow and tons of other games. All of these are available to you at any one of the 122 casinos in the
city of Las Vegas!

But, Vegas isn’t just for the gamblers anymore….

Nightlife- Vegas offers some of the hottest nightclubs in the World!  These are places that you can find
celebrities celebrating their birthdays or crowds of people swarming to ring in the New Year.  Some of the
best rated nightclubs in Vegas include- PURE @ Caesars Palace  , TAO@The Venetian , Hyde @ the Bellagio,
Surrender Nightclub @ The Wynn, and the  XS Nightclub @ Encore .

Not into the club scenes but want to check out some unique watering holes in Vegas?  Why not check out one
of these (or maybe 2 or 3 of them…it is Vegas after all!).
Try the coolest ICE ABR in Vegas – Minus 5 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel (up the escalators from the House of
Blues.  Or, looking for a fabulous martini, check out the Blue Martini  Bar located at Town Square.  How
about some Russian themed VODKA drinks? Then you’ll want to head to the Red Square located at the
Mandalay Bay Hotel.  Looking for a taste of the Caribbean, check out the RHUMBAR at the Mirage!
Just checking out the websites for some of these Nightclubs and happening bars, will get your pulse pumping.

Okay, so not everyone is a drinker, we get that.  So, whats a person to do in Vegas if they don’t gamble, don’t
go clubbing or are not into hitting the bar scene?  No Worries my friends….

Vegas offers you some of the BEST live shows you will ever get the chance to see.  You could go to a different
show twice a day, everyday for a month and still not see every show offered in Vegas.  Some of my FAV’s are:
Cirque Du Soleil shows….not all of these shows are created equal so you really have to pick your Cirque show
based on your preferences.  LOVE is the Cirque show based on music by the Beatles and runs at the Mirage.
The show that is was based on ELVIS was Viva Elvis but it ran it’s last show in August 2012.  Another great
cirque show is “O” which runs at the Bellagio. “O”-  Inspired by the concept of infinity and the elegance of
water’s pure form.  Cirque also offers an adult only (must be 18 or older for this one) show called
Zumanity, which is about the Sensual Side of Cirque du Soleil, is a seductive twist on reality. Cirque has lots
of shows in Vegas but not everyone is a Cirque show fan.  That’s okay, there’s tons of other show choices for
everyone out there.  You can always check out the famous Blue Man Group who perform at the Monte Carlo.
Want to see the REAL Las Vegas show girls?  Then you will want to add JUBILEE to your must see list!
This show offer spectacular performances, topless showgirls, and shimmering costumes and happens at
Bally’s.  One of my favorites was the Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian Hotel but it ended it’s run after
2,700 performances.  I truly thought that crew was FABULOUS.  Not all shows are around forever in Vegas so
if you see one that looks appealing to you…GO see it, it might not be there the next time you visit this exciting
city!

Want to explore some of the top attractions in Vegas that do not require a big travel budget?  Here’s some
highlights that everyone tends to enjoy….
Fountain Show at the Bellagio happens everyday. Check out their hours and how often they run the show on
their website by clicking on the Bellagio link above!  The Fremont Street Experience offers free nightly shows
featuring 12.5 million lights and 550,000 watts of amazing sound at VivaVision. It happens nightly starting
at 6pm-12:00am (midnight).  From 7pm-11pm nightly you can head to the Mirage to watch the Volcano
eruption.  Or head down to Treasure Island to see SIRENS of TI.  Click on the link for hours and viewing
info.  Don’t forget to check out the Canals at the Venetian which makes you want to grab your sweetie and
take a gondola ride ….yep you’re still in America, it’s a little piece of Italy right here in Vegas.  If you grab
yourself a rental car, why not take a day trip drive out to see the Hoover Dam or the Grand Canyon?
Anything & everything is a possibility.

Anyone that’s every heard of Vegas is sure to have heard talk about all the great places to dine in Vegas!
You name the celebrity chef and there’s a very GOOD chance that they have a restaurant in Vegas, heck
maybe even more than 1.  Follow them on TV, now go try their specialty dishes at one of their signature
dishes while in a town with so much to offer.  Did you know that Vegas has 15 Michelin Star restaurants?
Click on the word Michelin to see the 2012 list. One of my FAVORITE Burger joints can be found in the mall
that connects the Mandalay Bay and the Luxor.  It’s The Burger Bar , here you can get the burger of your
dreams.  You are designing it yourself so the sky is the limit.  Best sweet potato fries can be found there too.
Man was I one happy girl when I found out that the Burger Bar was opening a 2nd location in the USA and
it just happened to be on my hometown city- St. Louis MO.  You can find me down there many a days before
heading to a CARDS game. Another one of my Vegas fav’s for casual not overly pricey dining is Todd
English’s OLIVES which is at the Bellagio.  Make sure you ask for patio seating so that you can dine and
enjoy the fountain show at the same time.  There’s just so many great places to dine that it’s impossible for me
to even mention a portion of them all.  As a reminder you can always find an all-you-can-eat buffet in Vegas
any time of the day or night!

Dining, Gambling, Nightclubs, Bars, and Shows…could there be anymore to Vegas?  Of course there is!

Shopping!  Whether you are looking for a inexpensive souvenir shot glass to take home or wish to do the
high end fashion shopping, Vegas offers it all!  To name just a few of the many shopping opportunities that
a person can find in Vegas:  The Forum Shops at Ceasar’s Palace offers a160 stores to shop in.  The Miracle
Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood will make you lose all track of time as the stores draw you in.  Of course
another high end area for shopping until 12:00am every night can be found at the Grand Canal Shoppes
at the Venetian. And of course one of the best known malls in Vegas is the Fashion Show Mall located across
from the Treasure Island.

There’s just so much more to do in Vegas that I could go on and on for another 12 hours!  Don’t worry, I
won’t.  Just a quick note, Vegas has some of the BEST Spa’s in the country!  You can even ride roller coasters
in Vegas or bungee jump …you name the adventure and Vegas will probably be able to make it happen!

So, whether you are visiting Vegas for a gambling trip, a bachelor party, a girlfriends getaway, a spa visit,
a family vacation, a business convention or a wedding (or to elope), Vegas truly does have something to offer
for everyone.

Remember, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas is you’re hanging out with people with
smart phones!  Party & Play Safe my Friends!….Diane

Spring Break – Where to go?

It’s really amazing how quickly Spring Break can come up on us.  People that live in states
like Florida & California who experience nice weather the majority of the year cannot
fully appreciate what “Spring Break” signifies to those who live in the Midwest and
northern states and endure cold, harsh winters.

Spring Break announces the coming the spring flowers, Easter, Passover, warmer temps
around the corner and of course, the always appreciated & anticipated – family vacation.

When people imagine Spring Break, one of the 1st things that always comes to mind is
large groups of 18-25 year olds drinking excessively on the beaches in Cancun. Followed
by the removal of clothing in public areas by those that have had a bit too much to drink.
So, you ask yourself, if you are not a high school or college student looking to drink
heavily each day on the beach and possibly end up with your clothing removed…. where is
a great place to go on Spring Break?  Taking the kiddies?  Of course if a person is taking
the kids on the Spring break family vacation, you want to pick an area that will be family
friendly and will offer lots of activities for the kids to do.  There’s nothing worse than a
bored kid on vacation!

So, where do you go with kids for a fun filled vacation during Spring Break?  Let’s list
some hotspots for you.  Your favorite Spring Break location not on the list below, send us
a comment to this blog and tell us where your family likes to spend Spring Break and
WHY this destination is a great place to go!

Disney World Theme Parks in Orlando FL
Universal Studios, Orlando FL – featuring Harry Potter
Hawaiian Island 7 night Cruise
Ski trip – Steamboat Springs CO
Dude Ranch (great places around the country)
Beaches Resorts in Turks & Caicos or in Jamaica -featuring Sesame Street Characters
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines BIGGEST ships- The Allure of the Seas
& The Oasis of the Seas! – now offering Barbie Packages
Atlantis Resort in Nassau Bahamas
Disney’s new Aulani Resort in Hawaii

Budget a little too tight this year to do one of the above vacations?  No Problem, play
tourist in your own city or town.  If you stop to look around at what your closest big city
offers, you may find that you can see lots of great things on a low budget.

Take for example St. Louis, Missouri…. This city offers lots of great FREE sight-seeing
opportunities:
St. Louis Zoo – general admission – FREE
The Museum of Westward Expansion located under the Arch – FREE
Tram to the top of the Gateway Arch – $10 for 16 & older, $5 for kids 3-15 years
Grant’s Farm– admission, tram ride and all shows- FREE
Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tours– FREE
St. Louis Science Center – FREE
Natural History Museum – FREE
The St. Louis Art Museum – FREE

There’s no reason you and your family can’t be a tourist somewhere!  Travel, its an
education for everyone.

St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone.  As they say, everyone is Irish during
St. Patricks Day.  Speaking of the Irish, wouldn’t now be a great time to talk about Ireland?

I escorted a group of our friends and clients to Ireland in 2010.  I wanted to make their
experience of Ireland something they wouldn’t be able to do on any other tour of the
country.  To make this a unique experience, I custom built the itinerary, which allowed me
dictate every piece of the adventure.

My group ended up doing and seeing more in 10 days in Ireland than what most people
would see or do in 14+ days in country.

We literally circled the entire country in 10 days.  We started each morning with a fabulous
Irish breakfast at 8am.  Our days were long and FULL of adventure.  We normally didn’t
end up eating dinner until after 8:00pm. Of course our group did all the “normal” touristy
things throughout the country – kissed the Blarney, spent a couple of nights in castles,
went to the pubs at night to drink Guinness and Irish Whiskey, listened to the locals
play music in the pubs and saw Irish cloggers dance their way into our hearts and
memories.

But, some of the unique items of our trip included being in the town of Derry, Ireland on
the day that they read the ruling of Bloody Sunday.  What an historical day that was in the
town of Derry, and we were right there in the heart of it.  The youngest Mayor in the
history of Derry met us along a side street in town and was gracious enough to greet us as
visitor’s to his town and even gave us time to take photo’s with him.

We ended up in Drumcliff, County Slingo visiting poet & playwright, W.B. Yeats burial site
on the day that would have been his birthday, June 13th. Was it just by chance or could I
possibly have planned this in advance?  Only I know the truth….

Another stop along our way through this fabulous country was a visit to the Slieve League.
Don’t know what that is do you?  Well, its a extrodinary coast line of cliff ranges. If you
think seeing the Cliffs of Moher is something to see, make the trip further North and take
in the beauty of the Slieve League.  You can actually hike across the top of this mountain
range but I warn you in advance that at certain points along the path it becomes impossible
to pass another person (way too narrow), so if you greet a fellow hiker along the way, one
of you will have to lay down so the other can step over him.

The Giant’s Causeway I think is a MUST SEE in Ireland.  I often ask myself why so many
tourists visit the wonderful country of Ireland but do not take the time to go see this
natural wonder?  It is truly a great site to see.  My youngest traveler in our group was a
boy of the age of 12.  Standing there viewing this natural wonder in Ireland, he turned and
looked at his mother and said “I’m going to get married here someday”.  If a 12 year old
boy can see the beauty of Giant’s Causeway, I think you too would be impressed with it.

The highlight of this trip for me was when we went to the Down Cathedral.  This is where
St. Patrick himself is buried.  – No, St. Patrick is NOT buried in Dublin like so many tourists
think.  My father, having passed away 7 years prior to this journey never had the
opportunity to visit the country that his people came to America from.  I took my father’s
picture with me on this trip and placed his picture on the grave of St. Patrick.
We made the journey to Ireland together in spirit.

If you have not had the opportunity yet to visit Ireland, I would recommend you do so.
Make the highlights I provided above a part of your journey as well.  Take friends and
family with you to enjoy all these great sights and may you make wonderful memories of
your own.   May the Luck of the Irish be with you all!

Welcome to my First Blog – By Diane Mason

Welcome Everyone to our brand new website.  I hope you will find it full of great information to help you in selecting a vacation of your dreams…and easy to use too!   We are still wrapping up the fine tuning of everything so if you see a spelling error or something that doesn’t appear to be working correctly, please contact me at: Diane@thecruiseplanner.com and let me know.  I can’t fix it if I don’t know that it’s broken.

I’ve never ran a “Blog” before so it may take a little while for me to get in the swing of things.  I would love to have your feedback as to what things you might like to see me blog about.   Once we get the regular blog going, I will be blogging about destinations all over the World, great tours (and the not so great tours) that a person can do in different cities around the World, Places to eat (who doesn’t love a great restaurant)? And of course many more Fabulous travel related issues.

We will be announcing our 1st ever brand new ANNUAL photo contest.  This contest will be open to any of our clients using pictures from trips that we booked for them in the past.  All we need to do is have you send your pictures in via e-mail to myself or Jim and we will post them onto our Facebook Page.  Once they are posted, you can invite all your friends and family to LIKE our Facebook page and LIKE your picture!  Each like is a vote!

So, let’s get you started …. Find the FACEBOOK logo at the top of this page and LIKE us!  Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, you just never know what we might be posting on our pages.  We also put “special deals” on our Facebook page so if you like to know about those last minute deals, make sure you are following us.

See ya soon!
Diane